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GENERAL INTIOBUCTrO.V      INTLEXION.                                        73
Inflexion,In the Tai languages, all pure Tai words are monosyllables; only words
borrowed rom foreign languages, like kdcMri, a court-house, are polysyllabic.
Every word, without exception, denotes, prinmuly, th^ idea of some thing, action,
or condition, such as a man, a tree, striking, going, sleep, death, life, distance, propinquity,
goodness, I, thou, he, she, it,
Some of these words, such, for instance, as 'tree,' can only perform the
functions of nouns substantive, or can only with difficulty be twisted into performing
other functions. Other words, corresponding to what in Aryan languages we call
* verbal nouns,' are capable o! being easily UM'tl in oilier functions. Thus, if in
Ahom we wish to express the idea k slept' we say * sleep-completion}; if we wish to
express' sleeps/ we say ' sleep -existence/ and if we wish to express ' will sleep/ we say
' motion-towards-sleep'
It will thus be seen that the processes of what wo call declension and conjugation
do not properly occur in Aliom, nor can we divide the vocabulary into parts of speech.
The relations which, in Aryan" languages, we indicate by these two processes of inflexion
arc in Ahom indicated, partly by the position oC the various words in the sentence, and
partly by compounding vi ords together,
"We cannot, properly speaking, talk of nouns and verbs, we can only talk of words-
\ierforviuiy the functions of nouns or verbs.
"When inflexion is formed by composition, most of the auxiliary words added to the
main words have, as we have scon above, a, definite meaning, In some cases, however,
these auxiliary words have lobt their meanings as original words, or, at least, we are not
at present acquainted with them. In such cases we may talk o! these auxiliary words
as perlormmg the functions of suffixes or prefixes.
4s an example of the "preceding, let us take the way in which the word bai, placing',
may be treated.
If we make it perform the function of what we call a noun, it means, ' a placing',
'a putting' (e.g., of a ring on a linger); or} 'putting (in a safe place)/ hence'watch-
ing/ * taking care of'.
But the idea of * putting5 includes the idea of laying down or putting on to some
thing. Hence, bai comes to perform the function of a preposition, and may mean ' on *
as in bai lawh on back, i.e., after.
Again, if we wish it to perform the function of a verb the idea of ' placing' is
treated as a verbal noun, is. sto place.* If, to this, we add the imperative suffix sfa,
we get bctt-sJu* store. Nay* bai, by itself may be used as, what we should call, a present
tense, and means ' he, she, it' or * (they) place,5 If, with this, we compound the word
hupt whose-root idea is' collection,' we get hu^bai, collection-put, i.e.,c (they) save up,1
As to what function each word in a sentence performs, that is determined partly by
custom. Although, theoretically, every word may perform the function of any part of
jpeech; in practice, such is not the case. Some, such as po, a father; run, a house ; ban, a
day are, by their nature, confined to the function of substantives. Some are usually either
adjectives or verbs, such as pbiik, whiteness, "but usually either ' white,' or * to be white/
Others, such as ef, take; hau, give, are in practice confined to the function of
verbs, but others, like bai, above quoted, may perform any function.